Cubs manager Joe Maddon may have put it best, explaining why he resorted to a fourth man in the outfield to defend Joey Votto: The Reds first baseman is "ungodly" at the plate.It's a worthy descriptor to attach to one of the frontrunners for Most Valuable Player in the National
Cubs manager Joe Maddon may have put it best, explaining why he resorted to a fourth man in the outfield to defend Joey Votto: The Reds first baseman is "ungodly" at the plate.
It's a worthy descriptor to attach to one of the frontrunners for Most Valuable Player in the National League. Votto now has a .316 batting average, .447 on-base percentage and .598 slugging percentage, after going 2-for-5 with a double in the Reds' 11-8 win over the Braves on Saturday. He has 32 home runs, 100 walks and only 64 strikeouts.
The numbers are otherworldly -- to such a degree that they far overshadow Votto's station on a team that is not in contention for a playoff spot.
Consider, for example, Votto's season statistics in comparison with those of other NL MVP candidates: Paul Goldschmidt's for the D-backs, who hold one of the National League Wild Card slots, or Charlie Blackmon's for the Rockies, who hold the other spot, or Bryce Harper's for the Nationals, who are running away with the NL East. Even alongside the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, whose power numbers could be the best the league has seen in years, Votto does not lose standing.
Votto's slash line has yielded a 1.045 OPS through 124 games. That leads all qualified hitters in the Major Leagues. It is better than Harper's 1.034, Goldschmidt's 1.027 or Stanton's and Blackmon's 1.022.
Votto owes his lead to unparalleled plate discipline that he couples with All-Star hitting. Votto's 100 walks and .447 OBP both lead the Majors. Even though Stanton has the home run edge, 44 to 32 -- and slugging makes up half of OPS -- he has just 63 walks by comparison, 37 fewer than Votto. Stanton's on-base percentage, .382, is 65 points lower.
Votto has reached base in 24 straight games entering play Sunday. He also reached in 27 straight from late April to late May. Just this week, he had a 20-game streak snapped of reaching base safely two or more times in each game, the longest in MLB this season. The next-longest? Eleven games, by Goldschmidt, Michael Trout and Anthony Rizzo at various points.
For a pitcher, it is exceedingly difficult to beat Votto. His walk and strikeout totals are the proof, rarities in this day and age. The last hitter to finish a season with 100 or more walks, and at least 50 percent more walks than strikeouts, was Jose Pujols in 2009 (135 walks, 64 strikeouts). The only hitters to do so in a season this millennium are Pujols, Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Brian Giles and Jason Giambi.
And Votto's power numbers are still formidable. His 32 home runs rank third in the NL behind only Stanton (44) and Cody Bellinger (34). Votto has three more than Goldschmidt, Blackmon and Harper, who all have 29. Those 32 long balls are a career high for Votto, one of the best hitters in the game for years.
Votto's previous career year was 2010. That season, he hit .324/.424/.600 with 37 home runs and led the NL with a 1.024 OPS. He won the MVP Award. He might do it again.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.